Liver Cancer Awareness

October is national liver cancer awareness month. The liver is the largest organ in the body and has the important job of filtering the blood coming from the digestive tract, before passing it to the rest of the body. The liver also produces cholesterol and makes proteins that are important for blood clotting and other functions. Once the blood is in the liver it breaks down, balances, and creates nutrients from it. Some medications are also broken down in the liver into forms that are easier to use for the rest of the body. The conversion of glucose into glycogen for storage also happens here. The liver is extremely important and has many functions. Due to the fact that all of the blood passes through the liver it makes it unusually accessible to cancer cells traveling through the blood stream. The most common cancer that arises in the liver is hepatocellular carcinoma which begins in the liver cell, hepatocyte. Most liver cancers are secondary or metastatic, meaning that they started in another part of the body.

Causes of Hepatocellular carcinoma

  • Liver damaged by birth defects
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Chronic infections with diseases (hep B and C, hemochromatosis, cirrhosis
  • Obesity
  • Fatty liver disease


  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of weight
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain and swelling
  • Jaundice (yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes)
  • White, chalky stools

Risk Factors

  • Cirrhosis
  • Diabetes
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Chronic infection with HBV or HCV (hepatitis B and C)
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Certain inherited liver diseases
  • Exposure to alfatoxins


Reduce risk of cirrhosis

  • Drink alcohol in moderation
  • Maintain a healthy weight

Get hepatitis B vaccine

Prevent hepatitis C

  • Don’t use IV drugs
  • Always use clean needles
  • Seek clean shops when getting piercings or tattoos


Screening for liver cancer has not been proven to reduce the risk of getting and dying from liver cancer. The best thing to do is to follow all of the preventative methods and live a healthy lifestyle. The liver is one of the most important organs in the body and its extremely important to make sure that you stay healthy and keep it functioning at its full capacity. If you believe that you are suffering from any of the signs or symptoms of liver cancer, please talk to your health care provider as soon as possible.


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